"Poontang" etymology (speculative)

Wilson Gray hwgray at EARTHLINK.NET
Tue Jul 27 04:30:27 UTC 2004

On Jul 26, 2004, at 9:33 AM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM>
> Subject:      Re: "Poontang" etymology (speculative)
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> Jonathon Green is correct about double-entendre blues. I think
> "poontang" implies "poontang" and puns the confection.
> Hanging stuff on trees is just whimsy.  Advanced folklorists and rugby
> players will recall the Scottish stanza:
>                   John Brown the factor he was there, and most
> surprised to see
>                   Four-and-twenty maidenheids a-hangin frae a tree.
> Lesbians need not be invoked if "poontang" simply means sex without
> specifically female overtones.  This is not only possible but seems to
> me likely.
> Thomas Wolfe, author of the well-known 1929 cite in HDAS and
> elsewhere, was born and raised in North Carolina.
> My impression is that the word was once most common in the South.
> Racial overtones are an occasional and not a defining feature.
> JL

Depends on whose ox is being gored, I guess.

-Wilson Gray

> Jonathon Green <slang at ABECEDARY.NET> wrote:
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> Sender: American Dialect Society
> Poster: Jonathon Green
> Subject: Re: "Poontang" etymology (speculative)
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> --------
>> Your cherry pie is juicy, so is your jelly roll;
>> But when you give me poontang I just lose control.
>> Presumably there is a double-entendre here, with "poontang" meaning
>> superficially "a Louisiana confection" but also meaning "sex". "It's a
>> whang" probably means "It's a real whang-doodle" or so, i.e., "It's
>> really
>> something" but it may be a double-entendre too.
> Both Doug Wilson's songs are very typical of what might be termed a
> 'dirty' variety of 1920s/30s blues, as sung by the likes of Bessie
> Smith
> (Nobody In Town Can Bake A Sweet Jelly Roll Like Mine) or Louise Bogan
> ('Ain't nobody in town can grind a coffee like mine.'). However, given
> the
> primary term and its acknowledged meaning: the vagina, what is unusual
> about "Oh! Mr. Mitchell" is that the lyrics are given to a woman. The
> whole thing is indeed riddled with doubles entendres, but the slang
> terms
> 'poontang', 'cherry pie' and 'jellyroll' are almost invariably female
> attributes. 'Whang', equally gender-linked, usually refers to a penis.
> This is perhaps silly territory, but given the overt sexuality of the
> song, could 'Mr.' Mitchell have been an undercover reference to some
> long-forgotten lesbian?
> As for the Jimmie Strothers song, "Poontang Little, Poontang Small",
> this
> is very much more what one would expect: the poontang is unarguably the
> vagina. ('Salt', as in in 'salty thing', once mean lecherous in SE.) As
> for the hanging and stretching imagery, is there some kind of gruesome
> but
> popular fantasy therein? Very similar imagery occurs in a highly
> misogynistic scene in Jim Thompson's novel _King Blood_ (set in 1900,
> pub.
> 1968).
> Jonathon Green
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